New York City agrees to settle lawsuits with two men exonerated in Malcom X murder

New York City accepted settle lawsuits filed by two men who were exonerated in the assassination of Malcolm X last year. The city will pay $26 million for the wrongful convictions of Muhammad Aziz and Khalil Islam, who spent decades in prison following their convictions for the 1965 murder.

New York State will also pay an additional $10 million, according to The Associated Press.

“This settlement brings some measure of justice to people who have spent decades in jail and been stigmatized for being falsely accused of murdering an iconic figure,” a spokesperson for the city’s legal department told CBS News in a statement. “Based on our review, this office stands by the opinion of former Manhattan District Attorney Vance, who stated, based on his investigation, that “there is an ultimate conclusion : Mr. Aziz and Mr. Islam were wrongfully convicted of this crime”.

David B. Shanies, an attorney representing Aziz and Islam’s estate, said the two men’s exonerations were “long overdue. New York City did the right thing by settling these lawsuits immediately and not extending injustice. We are extremely grateful for the judge’s extensive efforts to facilitate a fair and speedy resolution.”

Last year, a Manhattan judge quashed the convictions of Aziz, now 84, and Islam, who died in 2009, after prosecutors said fresh evidence of witness intimidation and suppression of exculpatory evidence undermined the case against the men. Then-district attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. apologized for the “serious and unacceptable violations of the law and the public trust” by law enforcement.

Shanies said that over the next few weeks the settlement papers will be signed and the New York court dealing with probate matters will have to approve the settlement of Islam’s estate. The $36 million total will be split equally between Aziz and Islam’s estate.

Malcolm X
Muhammad Aziz, center, stands outside the courthouse with family members after his conviction for the murder of Malcolm X was overturned, Thursday, Nov. 18, 2021, in New York.

Seth Wenig/AP

Aziz and Islam, who have maintained their innocence since the start of the 1965 murder at Upper Manhattan’s Audubon Ballroom, were paroled in the 1980s.

Malcolm X gained national prominence as the voice of the Nation of Islam, urging black people to claim their civil rights “by any means necessary”. His autobiography, written with Alex Haley, remains a classic work of modern American literature.

Towards the end of Malcolm X’s life, he split from the Black Muslim organization and, after a trip to Mecca, began to speak of the potential for racial unity. This earned him the wrath of some members of the Nation of Islam, who considered him a traitor.

He was shot while beginning a speech on February 21, 1965. He was 39 years old.

Aziz and Islam, then known as Norman 3X Butler and Thomas 15X Johnson, and a third man were convicted of murder in March 1966. They were sentenced to life in prison.

The third man, Mujahid Abdul Halim – also known as Talmadge Hayer and Thomas Hagan – admitted shooting Malcolm X but said neither Aziz nor Islam were involved. The two offered alibis, and no physical evidence linked them to the crime. The case relied on eyewitnesses, although there were inconsistencies in their testimony.

Lawyers for Aziz and Islam said in complaints that Aziz and Islam were at their home in the Bronx when Malcolm X was killed. They said Aziz had spent 20 years in prison and more than 55 years living with the hardships and indignity of being unfairly labeled the convicted murderer of one of the city’s most prominent civil rights leaders. the story.

Islam spent 22 years in prison and died hoping to clear his name.

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